John Bunyan, ca. 1674
Of the Causes of Reprobation.
HAVING thus in a word or two showed the antiquity of reprobation, I now come in this place to show you the causes thereof; for doubtless this must stand a truth, that whatever God doth, there is sufficient ground therefor, whether by us apprehended or else without our reach.
First, then. It is caused from the very nature of God. There are two things in God from which or by the virtue of which all things have their rise ? to wit, the eternity of God in general, and the eternal perfection of every one of his attributes in particular; for as by the first he must needs be before all things, so by virtue of the second must all things consist. And as he is before all things, they having consistence by him, so also is he before all states or their causes, be they either good or bad, of continuance or otherwise, he being the first without beginning, etc., whereas all other things, with their causes, have rise, dependence, or toleration of being from him.
Hence it follows that nothing, either person or cause, etc., can by any means have a being but first he knows thereof, allows thereof, and decrees it shall be so: "Who is he that saith and it cometh to pass when the Lord commandeth it not?" Now, then, because that reprobation, as well as election, are subordinate to God, his will also, which is eternally perfect, being most immediately herein concerned, it was impossible that any should be reprobate before God hath both willed and decreed it should be so. It is not the being of a thing that administers matter of knowledge or foresight thereof to God, but the perfection of his knowledge, wisdom, and power, etc., that giveth the thing its being. God did not fore-decree there should be a world because he foresaw there would be one, but there must be one because he had before decreed there should be one. The same is true as touching the case in hand: "For this very purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show in thee my power."
Secondly. A second cause of eternal reprobation is the exercise of God?s sovereignty; for if this is true, that there is nothing either visible or invisible, whether in heaven or earth, but hath its being from him, then it must most reasonably follow that he is therefore sovereign Lord, etc., and may also according to his, own will, as he pleaseth himself, both exercise and manifest the same, being every whit absolute, and can do and may do whatsoever his soul desireth; and indeed good reason, for he hath not only made them all, but for his pleasure they both were and are created.
Now the very exercise of this sovereignty produceth reprobation; therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth; hath not the potter power over the clay of the same lump? and doth he not make his pots according to his pleasure? Here therefore the mercy, justice, wisdom, and power of God take liberty to do what they will, saying, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure."
Thirdly. Another cause of eternal reprobation is the act and working of distinguishing love and everlasting grace. God hath universal love and particular love, general love and distinguishing love; and so accordingly doth decree, purpose, and determine, from general love, the extension of general grace and mercy, but from that love that is distinguishing, peculiar grace and mercy: "Was not Esau Jacob?s brother? Yet I loved Jacob," saith the Lord; (yet I loved Jacob,) that. is, with a better love, or a love that is more distinguishing; as he farther makes appear in his answer to our father Abraham, when he prayed to God for Ishmael: "As for Ishmael, (saith he,) I have heard thee; behold I have blessed him and will also make him fruitful; but my covenant will I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear unto thee." Touching which words there are these things observable:
1. That God had better love for Isaac than he had for his brother Ishmael. Yet,
2. Not because Isaac had done more worthy and goodly deeds, for Isaac was yet unborn.
3. This choice blessing could not be denied to Ishmael because he had disinherited himself by sin, for this blessing was entailed to Isaac before Ishmael had a being also.
4. These things therefore must needs fall out through the working of distinguishing love and mercy, which has so cast the business "that the purpose of God according to election might stand."
Further. Should not God decree to show distinguishing love and mercy, as well as that which is general and common, he must not discover his best love at all to the sons of men. Again, if he, should reveal and extend his best love to all the world in general, then there would not be such a thing as love that doth distinguish; for distinguishing love appeareth in separating between Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, the many called and the few? chosen. Thus by virtue of distinguishing love some must be reprobate, for distinguishing love must leave some, both of the angels in heaven and the inhabitants of the earth; wherefore the decree also that doth establish it must needs leave some.
Fourthly. Another cause of reprobation is God?s willingness to show his wrath and to make his power known. This is one of those arguments that the holy apostle setteth against the most knotty and strong objection that ever was framed against the doctrine of eternal reprobation: "Thou wilt say then, (saith he,) Why doth he yet find fault? for if it be his will that some should be rejected, hardened, and perish, why then is he offended that any sin against him, for who hath resisted his will?" Hold, saith the apostle; stay a little here; first remember this: is it meet to say unto God, What doest thou? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay of the same lump?" etc. Besides, when you have thought your worst ? to wit, that the effects of reprobation must needs be consummate in the eternal perdition of the creature ? yet again consider what if God be willing to show his wrath as well as grace and mercy? And what if he, that he may so do, exclude some from having share in that grace that would infallibly, against all resistance, bring us safe unto eternal life? What then? Is he therefore the author of your perishing or his eternal reprobation either? Do you not know that he may refuse to elect who he will without abusing of them? Also that he may deny to give them that grace that would preserve them from sin without being guilty of their damnation? May he not, to show his wrath, suffer with much long-suffering all that are the vessels of wrath by their own voluntary will, to fit themselves for wrath and for destruction? Yea, might he not even in the act of reprobation conclude also to suffer them thus left to fall from the state he had left them in ? that is as they were considered, upright ? and when fallen to bind them fast in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day, but he must needs be charged foolishly? You shall see in that day what a harmony and what a glory there will be found in all God?s judgments in the overthrow of the sinner; also how clear the Lord will show himself of having any working hand in that which causeth eternal ruin, notwithstanding he hath reprobated such, doth suffer them to sin, and that too that he might show his wrath on the vessels of his wrath; the which I also after this next chapter shall further, clear up to you. As the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation without approving of their miscarriages, so he also knoweth how to reserve the ungodly unto the day of judgment to be punished, yet. never to deserve the least of blame for his so reserving of them, though none herein can see his way, for he alone knows how to do it.
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